How Madison alders not having children affects policy making

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swimmingupstream
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How Madison alders not having children affects policy making

Postby swimmingupstream » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:04 pm

This thread is going to explore how alders not having children influences their priorities and decision making. (Of the nineteen alders I believe only one or two have children at home. An over whelming majority of the council have never had children.)

The first example I am going to point to is the current move to place limits on vacation rentals through websites like Airbnb and VRBO.

If you have children and travel you then know that being able to rent a home or an apartment when visiting a city is a godsend. Having seperate bedrooms and a kitchen makes the trip less expensive and more enjoyable than having to rent multiple motel rooms and eating meals in restrauants or trying to cram your four kids into a single room with yourself and your spouse while eating cereal out of paper bowls with the milk stored in the small cube refrigerator.

According to news reports, the politicians pushing for limits on these rentals are Marsha Rummel and Ledell Zellers. Former Alder Bridgett Maniaci also was advocating for it as well. I can't help but wonder if they had the experience of traveling with kids if they would not have a different perspective.

According to the article today in the WSJ, Zellers would like to make it easier for bed and breakfasts to expand. That is fine and good. But if you travel with children you know that B'nBs are generally not accepting of families and with their knickkacks and antiques they are an accident waiting to happen.
Last edited by swimmingupstream on Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

swimmingupstream
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Re: How Madison alders not having children affects policy ma

Postby swimmingupstream » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:14 pm

I believe another intesting question is why is Madison City government so lacking in representation of families with children? Other city councils, township boards and even the Dane County board do not seem to have this problem. Are there structural barriers that keep those with children from serving?

I have lived in Dane County my whole life and since I have been following local government this deficit has been true about the Madison Council.

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Re: How Madison alders not having children affects policy ma

Postby rrnate » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:18 pm

swimmingupstream wrote:I believe another intesting question is why is Madison City government so lacking in representation of families with children? Other city councils, township boards and even the Dane County board do not seem to have this problem. Are there structural barriers that keep those with children from serving?


That's a pretty interesting question; I'd guess it has a fair amount to do with the lack of monetary reward vs. amount of time commitment. (Not sure that the rentals thing is so much based on having/not having kids, but it's safe to say that a mostly-childless council probably isn't thinking kids-first.)

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Re: How Madison alders not having children affects policy ma

Postby bdog » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:18 pm

Kids were one of the reasons I voted for Matt Phair in the 2011 D20 election.

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Re: How Madison alders not having children affects policy ma

Postby gargantua » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:21 pm

I have read that city council meetings often run very late. In addition, alders attend committee meetings and have to deal with constituent issues as they arise.

This leads me to suspect that people who are busy working and raising a family just may not be able to commit the time that being an alder requires in many cases.

I allow that it is possible that this may occasionally affect city policy, but I'll need more evidence than I've seen so far.

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Re: How Madison alders not having children affects policy ma

Postby swimmingupstream » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:27 pm

I believe Phair is the only council member with kids at home. A few others do have adult children. I believe at least two-thirds of the current council never have had kids.

The current president and vice-president of the council are neither married or have kids. I believe most of the council are single.

That seems pretty skewed to me.

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Re: How Madison alders not having children affects policy ma

Postby talagaster » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:27 pm

Other people have mentioned the time constraints. Alders also have to work hours that don't align with most daycare. I can't imagine a single parent doing it, though I'd be impressed with anyone who could juggle that. "Can you babysit my kids? I've got a council meeting that will probably go to 6 in the morning."

Additionally, you've got the fact that a decent number of alders in the last several terms have been LGBTQ. Just by statistics, that is a demographic less likely to have kids.

I think some parents would have concerns about Airbnb too. At present, I don't have kids (that I'm aware of) but I'm not sure I'd want to take my theoretical kids to a stranger's unlicensed apartment.

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Re: How Madison alders not having children affects policy ma

Postby swimmingupstream » Mon Aug 05, 2013 9:36 pm

talagaster wrote:I think some parents would have concerns about Airbnb too. At present, I don't have kids (that I'm aware of) but I'm not sure I'd want to take my theoretical kids to a stranger's unlicensed apartment.


I have four children and my spouse and I love Airbnb and VRBO. We know many other parents who also love these lodging options. We would travel a lot less if we had to rely solely on hotels.

Also, I have not heard too many complaints from other families about the Airbnbs they have used.

Motels are often dirty and located in noisy and busy areas. Airbnbs are often located in less touristy areas near playgrounds and family friendly parks.

I suspect that you not having children make you less aware of this. That is the point of my thread. :D

These alders seem to be chasing a solution in search of a problem.

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Re: How Madison alders not having children affects policy ma

Postby npler » Tue Aug 06, 2013 4:00 am

That is a very fascinating question. I am guessing that there is some impact but not as much as it might look like at first glance.

How many of them have children but they do not live at home?

I wonder what percentage of the electorate has any idea about the statistics mentioned above. Generally it is a good thing for a legislative branch of government to look as much as possible as like the electorate. Marital & family status could be relevant but maybe not, or only to a limited extent.

I know there are people who do consider it to some degree when voting and otherwise participating in the process. There are two sides of course: there are a handful of voters I have known over the years who have said things to the effect that they are turned off or even downright antagonized by candidates making much of their family & marital status for any office other than Board of Education. Some were also antagonized in those cases too. I myself can't remember any election where I gave it a lot of thought.

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Re: How Madison alders not having children affects policy ma

Postby bdog » Tue Aug 06, 2013 6:29 am

Perhaps Alders are just more progressive in this respect.

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Re: How Madison alders not having children affects policy ma

Postby bensmomjo » Tue Aug 06, 2013 7:06 am

I think the issue extends far beyond airbnb, and beyond the alders. Paul Soglin has children and was responsible for starting Madison's great accreditation program for child care programs. Neither Dave Cieslewicz nor Sue Bauman (both married but childless) totally "got it." And what they didn't get were two things: the day-to-day needs of working parents for child care and the priority that parents put on their children, making time for them, attending events, going to parent-teacher conferences, etc. If you don't have children, it's really hard to understand how they (even a singleton) change your decisions.

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Re: How Madison alders not having children affects policy ma

Postby Jattpw » Tue Aug 06, 2013 8:37 am

Doesn't Lauren Cnaire also have children at home?

And about the larger question...

Probably the biggest deterent to having Council members with children is that the evening time commitment and I have no idea how you get around that.

But I do think the City Council is not necessarily child oriented. The rooming issue is a minor issue. The larger issue is the City/ School District relationship for everything from space sharing to addressing graduation rates. Historically, the City has viewed school age programming from a recreational/crime prevention stand point rather than looking to measure how well programming is addressing academic achievement.

Soglin is encouraging the City to be more engaged with out of school youth but I haven't heard Alders really looking to take on solving the achievement gap as a goal. Further, I don't believe impact on individual school population and/or poverty rates is ever part of the discussion through the zoning process. We want the affordable housing to look pretty but the Council never enters into the discussion that you are placing it in an elementary school area that is already 75% free lunchers and is that a good place for it?

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Re: How Madison alders not having children affects policy ma

Postby snoqueen » Tue Aug 06, 2013 8:43 am

Looking at school-based parent groups and committees and at the school board itself, it's clear how few people have the resources to serve in that manner. A parent needs a backup parent in order to attend after-school or after-dinner meetings (read: after-work) that can run several hours or longer during the time their kids need lots of attention (homework, bedtime, playtime). For this reason, most participants with kids need to be in two-parent families, and the other parent needs to have a job that doesn't make demands on their time after maybe 4 pm.

So now you're limited to parents in two-parent families.

The same is likely true of the city council. And as jattpw just pointed out we have a great need for coordination between the school board and the council, a need that often seems to go unnoticed.

How iare parents in two-parent families (with day jobs) fairly representative of the actual demographics of parents? It's often the (very numerous) one-parent families that need extra consideration, and they're not getting representation (in your view).

I think we're back to electing people on the basis of a good record for understanding other people's needs and being a good listener, not necessarily being part of a particular demographic. Of course we need to see both sexes, a number of sexual preferences, many racial groups, and more on any elected body. But at some point we can't have a live representative of every possible demographic group -- we don't have that many seats up for election. Is having kids above or below the cutoff line for this detail?

I guess I'm saying it's below the cutoff, especially given the difficulty of finding people in the unique family circumstances that give them time to serve. On the other hand, people with adult children out of the house might be good proxies for people with small children still in the house, since only ten years ago they were in the same boat. Maybe that's the workaround we've unintentionally found.

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Re: How Madison alders not having children affects policy ma

Postby ___ » Sun Aug 11, 2013 4:34 pm

Wait, they're attacking airbnb here now too? There's gotta be some way to get rid of all the busybodies in this town. I'd like to buy a house some day but I'd have to do it outside the city limits. Don't want a bunch of control freaks dictating every little thing I can do in my own home.

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Re: How Madison alders not having children affects policy ma

Postby ArturoBandini » Sun Aug 11, 2013 9:55 pm

snoqueen wrote:I think we're back to electing people on the basis of a good record for understanding other people's needs and being a good listener, not necessarily being part of a particular demographic. Of course we need to see both sexes, a number of sexual preferences, many racial groups, and more on any elected body. But at some point we can't have a live representative of every possible demographic group -- we don't have that many seats up for election. Is having kids above or below the cutoff line for this detail?

This paragraph cracks me up. In my reading, you've basically said that ability or merit are what's really important, except nevermind, ethnic/gender/racial/sexual diversity comes first. Which is it?

It's true that we can't have a live representative of every possible demographic group, but I would venture to say that 'people with kids' (and 'kids' themselves - they deserve someone on their side too) are a large enough fraction of the population to merit 'live' representation. Such a live representative might also be able to check off one or more of the previously-mentioned ethnic/racial/gender diversity requirements (e.g. hispanic female mom who gender-identifies as a woman), so you're not necessarily crowding out other groups for the most part.

The ideal of representing every sub-demographic proportionally is interesting if you examine what is counted as a demographic group. Are people who hold common opinions that are different from those of their representative to be considered a demographic group worthy of representation? For instance, all the people who voted for the other guy in the election? And why do we need groupings at all? What if I'm a black female woman who disagrees with the black female woman representative that supposedly represents my demographic group?


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